Fort Smith Mayor Sandy Sanders said Tuesday (Sept. 12) he changed his mind about when to endorse a mayoral candidate, and decided to throw his support behind George McGill.
McGill, a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives whose district covers parts of Fort Smith and Sebastian County, announced Sept. 7 he would run for mayor of Fort Smith. If elected he would be the city’s first African-American mayor.
Mayor Sanders is not running for re-election. His second four-year term ends Dec. 31, 2018. The Fort Smith mayoral job pays $10,000 a year, with a $450 monthly auto allowance. Luis Andrade, a 21-year-old immigrant from Brazil and University of Arkansas at Fort Smith student, is also running for mayor with a “Make Fort Smith Great Again” campaign slogan.
Sanders had said he would wait until the May 2017 filing period closed before endorsing a candidate, but told Talk Business & Politics on Tuesday he decided that “regardless of who will get in the race, George is the best choice.”
“I think George McGill is a man of integrity and the highest character, and I have no doubts he will lead the city to greater heights than we’ve ever seen. He’s honest, well-respected and will be someone the citizens of his hometown will respond to in a very positive way,” Sanders said.
He also said McGill has “an excellent chance” of winning the office because “he provides an excellent choice.”
McGill said Tuesday he was grateful for the early support from Mayor Sanders.
“I really appreciate the confidence and trust that Mayor Sanders has placed in me. As always, I’m committed to doing everything I can to make Fort Smith a great place to live. It is my home, and the future of this city is important to me” McGill said.
Talk Business & Politics reached out to Andrade for comment. We will update this story with his response.
FILING PERIOD, ELECTION SCHEDULE
The filing period for Fort Smith’s mayoral race and for three of the at-large board of director positions begins May 16 and ends May 31.
Candidate packets will be ready around the end of February, according to Fort Smith Clerk Sherri Gard. Mayoral candidates must be qualified electors, must collect 50 valid signatures from registered voters, be 21 years old, and have been a city resident for at least six months. There also is a $10 filing fee.
A primary election will be held Aug. 14 if more than two people enter the race. If no one emerges from the primary with more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters will move on to the Nov. 6 general election.